Barbaric ritual leads to another death

Barbaric ritual leads to another death March 8, 2012

RITUAL circumcision is an abomination. But the bizarre practice of sucking the blood from a genitally mutilated infant after the foreskin is removed is even more horrific – even deadly.
According to a report yesterday in the New York Times, prosecutors are investigating the death of a newborn boy who died in last September after contracting herpes after he was subjected to:

Ritual circumcision with oral suction.

Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J Hynes, confirmed that the investigation was continuing, but declined to comment further.
The cause of death of the 2-week-old boy, who died at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn on September 28, was Type 1 herpes.
The ritual of oral suction — or in Hebrew, metzitzah b’peh — is practiced almost exclusively in ultra-Orthodox communities and, to a lesser degree, in Orthodox Jewish communities, despite efforts by the city to curtail it and educate communities about its health risks.
The procedure occurs during the circumcision ritual of the bris, as the practitioner, or mohel, removes the foreskin of the penis and then sucks the blood from the wound to clean it.
In 2003 and 2004, the city reported three cases of Type 1 herpes that were linked to circumcision, involving a boy on Staten Island and twin boys in Brooklyn, one of whom died. The procedures were done by one mohel, Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, who was later prohibited from performing the ritual in New York City.
According to the NYT report, the authorities have not determined the identity of the mohel in the most recent case, but since the death they have been trying to work with the Hasidic community.
In 2004, after the death of the twin, the Brooklyn district attorney tried to open an investigation but received little cooperation within the community, according to a person with knowledge of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was not brought to trial.
Roughly two-thirds of newborn boys in the city’s Orthodox communities are circumcised with metzitzah b’peh, said Rabbi David Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, who said he was using a calculation based on religious school enrolment figures.
He said that the mohels in the Hasidic community were cognisant of hygiene and that there were things they could do to reduce the risk of herpes without ending the practice.
The rabbi said:

We’re not oblivious to what’s going on. The worst thing that could happen is if the authorities regulate this practice, then it could go underground. I think the practice would continue, but there could be significant difficulty in gathering evidence. I would hope that our government officials take steps in conjunction with the community.

In 2005, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg assembled rabbis throughout the city to try to persuade them to move away from metzitzah b’peh. But they said that the practice was safe and that there was no definitive evidence that it caused herpes. Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said at the time:

The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years. We do not change. And we will not change.

But in the Bronx on Tuesday, the mayor talked about the medical examiner’s findings in the most recent death, which was also investigated by the health department.

There is probably nobody in public life who fights harder for the separation of church and state than I do, but I just wanted to remind everybody: religious liberty does not simply extend to injuring others or putting children at risk. And we will continue working with the community and others to prevent more baby boys from suffering these tragic fates.

Hat tip: Remigius and Ivan

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